On returning from a pilgrimage – and the coming holidays

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November 22, 2014 – I last posted on November 1, with a nod to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  (See On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II.)

Since then I – The Scribe – have been on a pilgrimage of my own.  My brother and I took eight days to canoe out to some offshore islands in the Gulf of Mexico.  Those islands – 10 or 12 miles offshore – included Half-moon Island, Cat Island and the Ship Islands.  (I.e., both East and West Ship Island.  “WSI” is in the foreground at right.)

I drove down to Biloxi on Sunday November 2, and we left Slidell LA – north of the I-10 bridge – on Lake Ponchartrain on Wednesday November 5.

It took us eight days – through the morning of Wednesday November 12 – to get through the Rigolets (“pronounced “RIG-uh-leez”) out to the Gulf islands noted above, and back to Biloxi.   (Formerly known as “Fort Maurepas.” See Rigolets and Fort Maurepas – Wikipedia.)

But it’s taken more than the eight days to get back home.  And to get back up to game speed.

And to get used to such luxuries as indoor plumbing and more than one-and-a-half granola bars for breakfast at 3:00 in the morning.  (That’s the best time to “hit the water,” before the wind and contrary tides pick up.)  I’ll be “waxing poetic” on that spiritual pilgrimage in later posts.

However, for now you may want to revisit “pilgrimages in general, and ‘St. James the Greater,’ the patron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.”   See also First Thanksgiving – Part II:

The post on St. James included this:  “In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

Other sites include Life is a Pilgrimage – teosofia.com, A Different Kind of Pilgrimage [Can] Change Your Life – which included the image at left – and/or Our lives are a pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God.

The latter post is from The Catholic Herald.  It talks about such things as the upcoming Last Sunday After Pentecost – on November 23.  (2014.)  That’s also known as “Christ the King Sunday.”   That Sunday also focuses on the “kingdom of the heart, whose inner struggle ultimately determines the direction of our lives.”

(Put another way, the “direction our earthly pilgrimage will take…”)

See also Hebrews 13:16, which first noted the faith of our spiritual forebears, then said:

These all died in faith … having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

(Emphasis added.)  See also 2d Corinthians 5.  In one version:  “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.”  And of course there’s the well-known John 14:2, where Jesus said:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions…   I go to prepare a place for you.

http://godw1nz.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/a-prosperous-wind1.jpgSo the theme here – in case I’m being too subtle – is one of “coming home in general.”

For example, from an extended pilgrimage like I just went through.  (Or like the one on the Mayflower, as shown at right.)  And especially in the sense that such a “coming home” serves as a kind of dress rehearsal for our heavenly “coming home for good.”

That’s the end-of-earthly-pilgrimage “coming home for good” in which we depart this “vale of tears” earthly incarnation and get reunited with the loved ones who died before us.

(See also Psalm 119:19, “I am a stranger here on earth…”)

Now, getting back to that upcoming holiday season…

In its simplest form, Advent is a time of getting ready for Christmas.  This year the season of Advent starts on November 30, the First Sunday of Advent, and ends on Christmas itself:

Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming…”  [The] Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.  For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives.  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

See Advent – Wikipedia.   And as if you didn’t know already, Christmas – a holiday “central to the Christian year” – comes on December 25.

Christmas ends the season of Advent and begins the 12 days of Christmas.  Those 12 Days end on 12th Night, which marks the start of The Epiphany.  “12th Night” in 2015 is the evening of January 5, also called the Eve of 12th Day.   It’s also called the Eve of Epiphany, and was formerly known as the last day of the Christmas season, “observed [also] as a time of merrymaking.”

Note also that in medieval times, 12th Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve – now called Halloween – back on October 31.   See the notes below on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a play that immortalized the occasion for revelry.  See also Christmas – Wikipedia, which added the following:

In the Early Middle Ages, Christmas Day was overshadowed by Epiphany, which in western Christianity focused on the visit of the magi.  But [by] the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5); a time that appears in the liturgical calendars as Christmastide or Twelve Holy Days…   The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800.  King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.

And finally, the Epiphany falls on January 6 and celebrates the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ (Jesus’ physical manifestation to “us”).  See Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia, which also noted, “Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles.”

So there you have it.  We’re now smack dab  in the middle of an old-time winter festival that started on Halloween and ends on January 6, also called Plough Monday.  See Plough Monday – Wikipedia, which noted January 6 is the “traditional start of the English agricultural year“:

The day traditionally saw the resumption of work after the Christmas period.  In some areas, particularly in northern England and East England, a plough was hauled from house to house in a procession, collecting money.  They were often accompanied by musicians, an old woman or a boy dressed as an old woman, called the “Bessy”, and a man in the role of the “fool.”  “Plough Pudding” is a boiled suet pudding, containing meat and onions.  It is from Norfolk and is eaten on Plough Monday.   [See below.]

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 “Plough Monday,” which ends the full Season of Christmas, on January 6…

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The original post had a upper image related to there being “no place like home.” With a link to No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,'” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.

The canoe trip noted above sought to follow – for the most part and in segments- the water path established in 1699 by the French explorer “d’Iberville,” from Biloxi, through Lake Ponchartrain and various bayous to the Mississippi, then up the Red River to Natchitoches Louisiana.  See e.g. Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville – Wikipedia.

As to the idea of life as a spiritual pilgrimage, the teosofia.com  site said this:

Those who are students of religions and mysticism of the East as of the West, will be familiar with two similes used for the human soul: that of the traveller, and that of the pilgrim…  In more profound and truer mystical traditions man is compared to a pilgrim…    The human soul is on a journey; all human souls are seeing sights, learning lessons and gathering experience; all are moving from stage to stage of evolution.  But many souls do not recognize that they are bound for a particular destination, that there is a purpose to life, and that purpose is holy and sacred…

As to Christ the King Sunday, see All About Christ the King Sunday | Prayers, History, Customs:

Christ the King Sunday celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the cosmos.  Officially called the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, it is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent.  In 2014, the feast falls on November 23rd.

The lower image is courtesy of Plough Monday – Hymns and Carols of Christmas.  See also Plough Monday – Wikipedia, which said in “the Church of England, the eve of Epiphany used to be celebrated as Twelfth Night.  The Monday after Epiphany is known as Plough Monday…  Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year[, ] usually the first Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), January 6.  References to Plough Monday date back to the late 15th century.”

One final note (courtesy of “Mi Dulce”), regarding the title of Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night:

“Twelfth Night” is a reference to the twelfth night after Christmas Day, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany.  It was originally a Catholic holiday but, prior to Shakespeare’s play, had become a day of revelry.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.  This history of festive ritual and Carnivalesque reversal, based on the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia at the same time of year (characterized by drunken revelry and inversion of the social order; masters became slaves for a day, and vice versa), is the cultural origin of the play’s gender confusion-driven plot. [E.A.]

See Twelfth Night – Wikipedia, which added that the play “centers on the twins Viola and Sebastian,” separated in a shipwreck, followed by a Countess Olivia falling in love with Viola (disguised as a boy), and “Sebastian in turn falling in love with Olivia.”  In turn Olivia “falls in love with ‘Cesario’, as she does not realise ‘he’ is Viola in disguise.  In the meantime, Viola has fallen in love with the Duke,” Orsino.  Finally, Wikipedia noted that the play “expanded on the musical interludes and riotous disorder expected of the occasion,” that is, the occasion of the “drunken revelry” of 12th Night.

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